South African artist Daniel P. Cunningham and British born artist Mark J. Hamilton will be at Kiki Bar in Reykjavík, tonight, Thursday night August 24, with an act that is unique on the Icelandic scene. They call it Queer-Punk performance art, a Shamanic striptease. We at GayIceland were really curious to find out what that entails so we contacted Daniel to give us – and you – all the information about this show.
So start with telling me about this act: Shamanic striptease? What does that even mean? “Shamanic striptease is a healing ritual for myself but it extends to audience members via ceremonial frameworks. I invite the spectators to release their burdens through a ritual created by me and my collaborator Mark J Hamilton,” Daniel explains. “Through Shamanic striptease I try to make sense of my complicated family history; my evangelical background and my white African identity. As a gay man I needed to make a work that allowed me to confront these questions.”
Tell me a bit more about yourself. You mentioned your background, is it hard to come out as gay in the society you grew up in? “I grew up in South Africa, I moved to London when I was 15. From young, I was surrounded by aggressive males, aggression and psychological abuse to women. It wasn’t hard for me to come out but it’s because I detached myself from individuals who threatened my happiness. My Christian up bringing was suppressive because of how it was taught to me, so I’ve had to find my own path. I’m a feminist and I bow down to the Divine feminine.”
“Shamanic striptease is a healing ritual for myself but it extends to audience members via ceremonial frameworks … I offer a chair to an audience member to receive a lap dance healing.”
And you found a way to heal yourself with dancing? “Mark J Hamilton is my teacher and the director of this work. He has a rich background in physical practices such as ashtanga vinyasa flow yoga, capoeira and classical Indian dance. We practice physical and vocal work in the studio, and in a way this physical and vocal work in the studio in London has been a massive part of my healing process.The performance has been healing in a different way because it allows me to process questions that relate to my life and how I stand with my identity. As a white African gay man with an Irish passport.”
Tell me more about the act itself. You get the audience to take part? “Yes. No one has to do anything, so don’t be afraid. I offer a chair to an audience member to receive a lap dance healing. The audience is also given fake money which they will use to ‘make it rain’ while I twerk. I come from a multi disciplinary performance background, so the work is immersive, physical, and I sing some South African songs, as well as Christian liturgical chant. We call this work Queer-Punk performance art. This will be a queer ceremony for all who wish to attend.”
And what is Mark’s role in the act? “This is the first piece of work we are developing and it is a solo performance but we created the work together in the studio. We have two separate works called ‘High: Mass Movement’ and ‘Creatrix: Cosmic Mother’ which Mark perform in. Mark is always present
in the space in case things get too out of control. I call upon the spirits during the performance and sometimes the wires get crossed.”
You have been doing this show all over London, I’m told, what made you decide to do it in Iceland? “I have lots of beautiful friends in Iceland, friends who have made an impact on my life. I wanted to visit Iceland for the first time and share my work with this incredible land. We performed at the Freezer (Frystiklefinn) most recently and it was special to do our performance at the edge of the sea and at the foot of a volcano.”
And you are on at Kiki BarThursday night, at what time? “Yes Kiki Bar at 21pm. First 50 guests get a free beer. And it’s 1.000 ISK for students and members of LGBTQAI organisations and 1.500 ISK for everyone else.
And where do you take it from here? “Next we go back to London and we prepare for a performance we have at Camden People’s theatre. We will present the work with live music by wonderful musicians. And then hopefully we return to Reykjavik to perform and lead our workshop practice.”